In the prior issues, terminology referencing the seasons and locations have been a little challenging; however, with this issue, London lays the historical foundation for why the Battlecats exist, as well as to better understand the weight of tradition and royal expectations that the feline squad carry. The writer creates a fascinating origin story and, at once, Natharien is an intriguing character, in part because he is an ancient canine. (There’s another story there which, hopefully, London will explore in a future issue.) In addition, the reveal of a young Battlecat at the beginning of his path towards becoming an exalted soldier tied in well with the three issues already out. The anticipation of origin stories for the other Battlecats is an exciting prospect.
Joining London are Andy King (penciller and inker) and Julián González (main colorist) with the assistance of Michael Camelo and Miguel Angel Zapata. King has rendered a captivating visual narrative that complements London’s story. He establishes shots and creates interesting angles and layouts that keep the visuals fresh and exciting. In particular, the reveal of Eramad, almost the height of one full page, is presented as a larger-than-life hero, adorned with a full mane of hair and armor reminiscent of the Greeks and Romans. Later in the issue, King composes a beautiful layout of Eramad III fighting a water monster in the way the monster curls around the king, frames the action, and pulls the reader’s eye right to crux of the battle. Also, King manages to create unique faces, costumes, and physiques for each of the characters, even the minor ones.
The coloring team does a magnificent job with color selection which brings to life King’s work. Returning to Eramad’s battle with the scaly monster, the colors of the monster – reds and blue – are set off expertly against the green variegated shades of the swampy background. The panels depicting each season are shaded with colors outside of the typical color palette. Slate represents winter while shades of fuchsia convey spring; a muted moss-brown for summer and an earthly copper for autumn. Zapata is joined by Christian Ospina on lettering. The speech balloons and narrative boxes are clean and easy to read, which is always nice. The technique to cascade blocks of text down the page, especially late in the issue where Eramad III is sitting on his throne, punctuates with deft efficiency what each king represents historically.
Rounding out the team are Zapata, Ospina and Andrew Zea (graphic designers), Giovanna T. Orozco (production coordinator), and Gabriel Enjamio (editor). The digital design work accentuates motion of characters well, such as in the heat of battle of swinging fists and splatter of blood, and the vastness of space during the frames of creation, for instance. The three dragon heads emerging from the campfire is particularly memorable.
This issue provides historical context that joins the first three issues into a cohesively packaged story. In addition, Mad Cave Studios has just released The Tome of Valderia, which encapsulates the mythos of the Valerian gods and characters in much greater depth than issue #0. The content, perhaps because I love history and mythology, resonated well with me and kept my attention. If anything, I believe that if the issues had been released in numerical order, it would have resulted in the reader having more context and backstory; however, with the prospect (Fingers crossed!) of additional character origin stories in the future, there are exciting adventures ahead for the Battlecats and readers alike.